More Like Utica Mean

Illustration for article titled More Like Utica Mean
Screenshot: Amazon

As a supposed feminist who gets shit from internet strangers for being “too mean” every time I write words about celebrities that are not effusive praise, I very much understand the struggle Utica Queen faced with the RuPaul’s Drag Race roast of former Miss Congenialities. What’s the difference between “roasting” someone and simply being mean? And while it’s possible I may not know that difference when I write it, I at least know it when I see it. So Utica, allow me, an internet stranger, to give you just the slightest dab of shit—Your “observations” were mean.

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And a side of meanness is okay in a roast! But the meanness should always be in service of the main course, which is the punchline. On last week’s episode of Drag Race, only three queens seemed to understand that in comedy, the punchline is the bottom line. The rest let their personal shit stand in the way of being funny. Utica, the queen who was too scared of Twitter to pay homage to the comedy classic B*A*P*S in the makeover challenge, had absolutely no problem “roasting” former Miss Congeniality Nina West, along with Michelle Visage and Loni Love, for being fat—which was the entirety of the joke and the only observational humor of which she seemed capable.

“My taste level when it comes to humor is I love when it’s just accurate,” Utica said in a confessional aside. But when it comes to a roast, the roaster’s concept of what is worth roasting is more on display than any flaws of the roastee. And while the other queens had similar reads of most of the subjects—Nina West has linebacker shoulders, RuPaul is old, Valentina can’t sing—it speaks volumes that Utica could do little more than look at the panel of judges and the guests of honor and pick out which bodies were unlike her own. For someone with such an alleged passion for the surreal, Utica’s inability to find a more whimsical approach to roasting than hurling insults that were rooted in such bland meanness is perhaps one of the oddest things about her performance. RuPaul and Loni Love were the real stars of Utica’s turn at the mic, saving her set with their creative heckling and rude hand gestures.

Symone, my darling Symone, got tripped up by what seemed like some self-meanness. In her confessional, Symone revealed that the only roasts with which she was familiar were “in my momma’s crockpot,” a funny joke because Symone is a funny person who does not seem to believe in that ability if she’s not playing a character. She tripped over her own insecurities from the beginning, and after her first joke didn’t land, her self-immolation was painfully obvious, making the entire set equally painful.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rosé, whose workroom one-liners have become one of my favorite parts of the season, ended the roast with her signature professionalism and brought laughs but no real surprises because Rosé never really seems to fail even if her victories are often a bit muted in contrast to the peaks and valleys of the other competitors.

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By comparison, Kandy, the technical winner of the episode, seemed to be setting herself up to fail by opening the show. But she surprised both judges and 100 percent of bloggers writing this blog by being, if not great, pretty adept! Telling Valentina “Your Angel needed an angel” was probably the most original Rent Live burn of the night, but the real best part of the roast, for me, was Kandy’s confessional glee at Utica bombing. After Kandy was rightly skeptical of Utica’s crocodile tears over sending Tina home at the beginning of the episode as she theatrically wailed “I think Tina deserves to stay more than I do” before asking seconds later “What do you guys think?” completely dry-eyed, Kandy giggling at Utica putting herself in the bottom once again felt in direct conversation with the audience (me) chuckling to myself at the same joke.

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But the real winner of the episode, despite the judges’ bizarre failure to agree, was Gottmik, who says every week she can’t do the challenge and then usually does it better than nearly everyone else. From her perfectly articulated UTI joke about Utica to her observation that Ross watches porn only to cum when the “pizza gets delivered,” Gottmik used observations as an impetus to a punchline that reflected her own quirky wit, rather than believing that bald-faced meanness provides its own humor. Just like having Tina Burner and Rosé, two brassy New York City queens, in the same season felt redundant, there’s no real reason to keep Utica around for quirk’s sake when we’ve got Gottmik’s weird little eyebrows and giant, silly heart doing it so much better week after week.

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And despite her “tearful” insistence that Tina deserved to stay, Utica sure did delight in the notion of being this season’s lip-synch assassin. The statement wasn’t really grating out of any real love for Tina but out of irritation both at Utica’s hubris and her insincere performance of “niceness,” character traits that were also on display in her roast. So it was a satisfying moment of television to watch Symone, almost certainly the Season 13 winner, handily dispatch Utica of her delusions, fittingly, to a song that called to mind Utica’s workroom pretense of mourning Tina’s departure: Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left to Cry.” A single raised eyebrow from Symone is worth more on camera than full-body gyrations from Utica, or just about anyone else to be fair, which is why it’s almost certain that, underdone roast notwithstanding, Symone is in this to the finish line.

DISCUSSION

Every season has cast an “Art Nerd archetype since Sasha Velour. Unfortunately, none of the ones since have held a candle to her. I found it really hard to appreciate Utica’s drag, especially when she constantly defined herself as “different” and “unique.Y’all are all drag queens! You are by definition unique! Don’t try to sell us on the idea of a “mainstream” drag queen, especially if you’re saying you’re edgier than her. smdh